Research Maps Out Racism, Poverty in Death Rates

Research published in Project Five Thirty Eight called: 35 Years Of American Death: Mortality rates for leading causes of death in every U.S. county from 1980 to 2014 maps racism and poverty’s legacy and ongoing impacts in today’s death disparities. It shows that health disparities show no party lines.

Rural Appalachia stands out; nine counties in Kentucky and three in West Virginia make the list. Rising cancer rates and increased deaths from substance abuse in Appalachia have kept mortality rates high there, even while overall mortality rates in the U.S. have gone down. After Appalachia, the region that features most heavily is the Dakotas. All of the counties in North and South Dakota in the top 20 [mortality rates] (Buffalo, Oglala Lakota and Todd counties in South Dakota and Sioux County in North Dakota) are entirely or almost entirely made up of American Indian reservation lands.

The Smithsonian article “Watch the Causes of Death Change Across America: The patterns highlight key social and economic issues in the country,” analyzes the Project Five Thirty Eight data, too, “Deaths tell an important story,” it says.

Health disparities tied to poverty, racism and poor education show patterns that bear the imprint of slavery in the south, Anna Maria Barry-Jester reports for Five Thirty Eight in a companion article where she explores some of the reasons for the patterns seen among black Americans, especially in the rural South.

The Project Five Thirty Eight map has a series of dropdown options. Start with “all causes of death” and the counties that stand out with the highest death rates per 100,000 include the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud nations in South Dakota.

Choose the drop down option for “self harm and “interpersonal violence” and the pattern repeats for parts of Appalachia, Native nations in the Dakotas, and large areas of the western United States.

Project Five Thirty Eight takes its name from the total number of electoral votes in a presidential election: 538.

(Thank you, LeMoine LaPointe, for sharing this article.)

One thought on “Research Maps Out Racism, Poverty in Death Rates

  1. Scott,

    Buffalo county, SD is the home of the Crow Creek reservation and the place where our first Minnesotans were forcibly moved to and nearly exterminated. This tribe is often forgotten.

    Thanks for the report, Philip


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